Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

After the overindulgence of the holidays, we haven’t been eating out at restaurants much which encourages me to look through my cookbooks for inspiration. At the very least, it reminds me to do some tried-and-tested recipes again which brings me to this post. We did a vegetarian day last Saturday and had two non-meat meals – not necessarily low-fat, just meat-free. For lunch, we had a tarte aux oignons (a.k.a. onion tart), from Tamasin Day-Lewis’ The Art of the Tart , served with a tomato salad.

Dinner was gnocchi soufflés from a recipe of Argentine family friend well-known for her home cooking – Pilar L. The first time I ever had these were at her home in the south of Argentina in winter 2002 where she invited us to lunch and served us a fantastic beet soup and the gnocchi soufflés. After that meal, we asked for the recipe and have been making it at home since. So, here’s a double dose of meat-free meals to last the week.

Onion Tart (from The Art of the Tart by Tamasin Day-Lewis)
  • 9-inch unbaked tart shell, chilled
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 large onions, finely sliced
  • salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups organic heavy cream
  • pepper, nutmeg
  • Make the tart shell with 1 cup plain white flour to 4 tablespoons of very cold unsalted butter. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a food processor then cut the butter into it. Process for about 20-30 seconds, then add ice-cold water through the top, a tablespoon at a time (about 2-2 1/2) with the machine running. (If the paste is still crumbly, after a minute or two, add a tablespoon more water, but remember, the more water you use, the more the crust will shrink if you bake it blind.) The moment it has cohered into a ball, stop, remove it, wrap it in plastic wrap , and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Leave the tart shell in the refrigerator while you cook the onions for the filling.
  • Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet, and add the onions and a pinch of salt, stirring until the onions are completely coated in the butter. Then cover the pan with a lid and cook on low heat incredibly gently until the onions are softened but not coloured. remove the lid and carry on cooking to evaporate all the liquid, stirring from time to time. This whole process will take somewhere between 40 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F (200C). Bake the tart shell blind for 15 minutes. Line the shell with waxed paper and fill with baking beans or uncooked white beans, then remove the wax paper and the beans, prick the bottom with a fork, and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Brush beaten egg lightly over the surface and turn the oven down to 350F (180C).
  • Beat the egg yolks with the cream, pepper, and a hint of grated nutmeg, and stir into the onions, then pour the mixture into the tart shell. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until gently set and palely browned. remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving with a sharply dressed green salad.
  • Serves 6

Pilar L.’s Gnocchi Soufflés

  • 50 grams butter
  • 50 grams flour
  • 500 ml. hot milk, salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 rams cream cheese
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites, beaten until stiff
  • 300 grams cream mixed with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, set aside
  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Mix the flour and butter in a saucepan over medium heat to make a roux. Add the hot milk and season with salt and pepper. Add the Parmesan and cream cheese then slowly add the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir continuously on medium-low heat then set aside.
  • Beat egg whites until stiff then slowly mix into egg yolk mixture.
  • Fill several (about 15) buttered ramekins or individual molds and scoop in the egg and cheese mixture.
  • Boil some water. Line a large roasting pan with kitchen paper ans set down the molds or ramekins inside with some space between each one. Pour the hot water slowly into the roasting pan.
  • Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes then leave to cool.
  • Once cool, remove from the molds by flipping the molds over into a porcelain oven-proof dish or Pyrex dish. (The recipe can be done up to this point and set aside.)
  • Pour over the cream and grated Parmesan mix and brown in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Serves 6
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